Breast or bottle?

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Pregnancy and Birth coping with breastfeeding

Wondering whether to breast or bottle feed your new baby? The Department of Health advises mums to breastfeed for at least 6 months but for some mothers this just doesn't work.

And a new study has even suggested that breast might not be best, as we're so often told. Research by the Medical Research Council has found that breastfeeding may actually make babies 'grumpier', with bottle-fed babies sleeping easier and being happier, smilier babies.

But pro-breastfeeding experts say that while this may be the case, mums shouldn't be too quick to reach for the bottle as this behaviour is a baby's way of bonding with their mum and instead, new parents should seek advice from their health visitor before choosing not to breastfeed.

It's a big decision with a lot of things to weigh up. Here, we talk through the pros and cons of both breastfeeding or bottle feeding to help you make the best choice for you and your baby. Have a read, and be sure to talk through your plans and get advice from your health visitor as well.

Want to chat to real mums about what worked for them? Our new Forums are the place to head.

How long should you breastfeed your baby?

The Department of Health advises mums to breastfeed their baby for at least 6 months, but scientists at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London released research in January 2011, saying that introducing other foods earlier than this may be more beneficial.

They said there is a higher risk of anaemia, coeliac disease and food allergies in babies who are exclusively breastfed - and also that it could mean they don't get used to bitter tastes which could encourage unhealthy eating later on in life.

This research may add more confusion to mums who aren't sure what's best for their babies. It's a subject that causes a lot of stress for some mums as they feel embarrassed or judged after deciding that breastfeeding just isn't for them. See our weaning guide and baby food meal planners if you're thinking of introducing solids to your baby earlier than the recommended 6 months.

Celebs share their views on breastfeeding

Several celebs have even had their say on breastfeeding. Model Gisele said that she thinks there should be a law for all mums to breastfeed until their babies are 6 months old.

In an interview in Harper's Bazaar magazine, she said: 'Some people here [in the US] think they don't have to breastfeed, and I think "Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?"

'I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for 6 months.'

Denise Van Outen also joined the breast or bottle debate recently when she admitted that she stopped breastfeeding her baby, Betsy, after 3 weeks as she found it too public.

'I probably should have persevered a bit longer than 3 weeks,' says Denise, 36.

'But I can't be sitting in Starbucks and breastfeeding, because they [photographers] are taking pictures.'

Have your say

Tell us what you think about breastfeeding - did it work for you? Is all the advice confusing? Leave a comment in the box below, chat in our Forums or let us know on Facebook.

On Facebook we asked you what you thought of Gisele's statement - and most of you told us that you think breastfeeding should be a woman's choice.

Samantha Lockwood said: 'I think it should be every mothers choice. It is not always possible to breast feed your baby and some women are made to feel inadequate or bad mothers if they don't or can't. Being a new mum has its own challenges without adding more!'

And when we asked you about Denise's decision to stop breastfeeding, most of you told us that you didn't think breastfeeding when out and about was a problem.

Caroline O'Sullivan said: 'Breastfeeding needn't be 'public' when out and about with a little one as long as you take along a blanket or scarf to cover them with.

'I used to pop my babes under my top and use that to cover things up. As they get older they feed less and eat more solids so you don't need to feed them in public. I'm still breastfeeding my son who's 2yrs 8mths.

'He only has my milk at night and sometimes when he wakes up just so we can cuddle up, he just has solids and other liquids during the day.'

Continued below...

We answer your questions on breast and bottle feeding so you can make up your own mind about the best option for you and your baby.


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Your comments

Andrea McKee

i just had a baby 2 days ago and im breastfeeding, however he is a nipple suckers and doesnt take the boob into the mouth to feed properly. Im not going to stop trying. The whole public think, i would pump the boob into a bottle and feed him like that. In public you dont have to get your boobs out to give your baby breast milk.

Angela Dixon

What about us mothers who have been advised NOT to breastfeed? I am on medication which can be harmful to baby so I dont have a choice?! People look at me as a bad mother I hate getting the dreaded "bottle" out in public would much rather get the "boob" out! But in my opinion all these "supermums" who think they are doing what is best by breastfeeding you will soon see them pushing a 9 month old in a buggy with a packet of sweets in the hand!!! I think more harm is done to children with food after 6 months and not before!!!!

Russell Poynter

Breast is best and is the most natural. I fully understand the need for choice, the requirements for Mums to go back to work and the need for A-list privacy! But it does not detract from the most natural thing to do - milk supplied to baby by her mother - designed the way it is meant to work. I feel sorry for those who struggle with breast feeding and think it is a shame more Mums don't persevere. Also please note that comments about African Mums and what they look like shows however malnourished they are their milk is always perfect for their baby. Also more deaths happen in african countries from their babys being bottle-fed due to dirty water than they do from feeding on the breast. All I can say is don't feel guilty, don't be put off by what people say and just try - the first few days are the most important - after that do what is right for your personal situation.


I think a lot of the reason why sucessful breastfeeding is uncommon in the UK is down to the society we live in. Women do not have the support they need with children and most of us just have to manage everything by ourselves, even if we have a partner they are at work. Children are seen as a lifestyle choice like accessories not as a vital part of society and therefore 'your child, your problem'. In other cultures the extended family is more involved, there is more community support and women do not have the pressure to maintain a 'lifestyle', go out to work and be back in a size 10 by the time the placenta hits the bin! We are also our own worst enemies with this issue we should be helping each other not judging people for not breastfeeding. And for those who say impoverished African mothers manage 1. They have no choice 2. they are hardly the picture of health and wellbeing are they?


I breastfed each of mine for about 2 1/2 - 3 years (and yes, it was partly for me -loved the feeling and special moments) but it also reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity and improved speech development etc etc. They are now happy, healthy teenagers. I do support a mother's right to chose and not be damned for it - I was lucky to be able to afford a nanny who brought the baby to me when I worked to allow me to continue feeding - for others the mortgage has to be paid. There are very few physiological reasons a mother can't feed ('not being able to' isn't something African mothers find happens) but huge social and emotional reasons. I think it's a pity someone with the media clout Denise has didn't use the opportunity to enlighten and educate and help make public feeding more acceptable. However, she also has the right to chose and to her privacy.


I think it is every mothers choice for there baby, i actually think it's quite weird that mothers breastfeed a child, when they are talking and walking and eating solids- there is no need for it then, and it's probably more for the mother than child....! but thats just my opinion :-)


I breastfed my baby for nearly 6 months, I only stopped when I was returning to work. It is a personal choice if and for how long a Mum breastfeeds her baby. I felt proud that I was able to breastfeed my baby but certainly would not criticise a Mum for choosing bottle over breast.


I had difficulties breast feeding my son and turned to the bottle (formula that is!) after 5 days. I cried for days because I thought I was failing- especially with all the press about "breast is best". My son is now a very healthy bruiser of a boy- I know how much he has fed which is very reassuring, he has not been ill, he is very happy, has slept through the night from 8 weeks and WE couldn't be happier. The bottle was definately the right choice for us.


how selfish and stupid. breast milk is superior to bottle milk and no amount of 'but it's the mothers's choice nonsense' will win the argument of breast v bottle. WOmen who give up bfeeding because 'people took photos of me in starbucks' are in my opinion too stupid and selfish to be parents in the first place. the real reason is probably because she needs to be skinny and go back to work and can't be seen to do the natural thing because it's so not what the majority of celebraties do. makes me feel so sorry for these celeb babies - they really don't stand a chance of normality do they?


if i could i would have breast fed i know it can really help your child but i hate it being constantly infered its wrong to bottle feed sometimes that is the only choice i do not think in anyway breast feeding in public is in anyway a problem and the more women who do it the more it will be accepted some of the sights i see walking about in my seaside home town during the summer they should cover up not the breast feeding mum

Erica Swart

Any mother has the choice of breastfeeding her baby or not. I breastfed my children for 3 and 6 months respectively and that was my choice. People should stop judging others and start minding their own business. Not breastfeeding does not make someone a bad mother.

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